PLAYBILL BRIEF ENCOUNTER With Bill Deamer, Choreographer of London's Top Hat

By Mark Shenton
30 Jun 2012

Summer Strallen in Top Hat.
Photo by Alastair Muir

From being a jobbing dancer, you became a jobbing choreographer.
BD: Yes, I did lots of rep work — and started working with Martin Connor doing musicals with students at Guildhall. One of the shows we did there was Babes in Arms — and it led to a professional production at Cardiff, and then Jonathan Church asked us to do it at Chichester as well. It was a huge hit, but the first half wasn't quite right. We've worked on it some more, and it is now — and we're going to do it again at Arts Ed [another London drama school] later this year.

You're at Guildhall again at the moment, working on Chaplin [an American-penned musical famously aborted for Broadway in 1982, and now receiving its first full production in its original version].
BD: It's an absolute joy. The facilities are incredible — you get a full orchestra and a full stage set, so you can explore any musical you want to. Chaplin is a piece Martin and I did a workshop of first with students at Guildford, my old school, so it was fun to be back there. But it has given us the chance to explore something that is essentially brand new. It's got a very interesting concept and it's got something to say — its told in a music- hall style, which then becomes filmic and there's projection, and there's also mime and commedia dell'arte — you're crossing lots of different worlds, and it all mixes up. I also didn't realize what an awful life Chaplin had, or that he didn't find his true identity until quite late on.

What about your own artistic identity? What are your personal trademarks?
BD: I've always been a good comic, so choreographing comedically is something I can do. It also comes in handy when you're choreographing and things get tense. I always know how to calm down a situation!


Tom Chambers and Summer Strallen in Top Hat.
photo by Brinkhoff and Mogenburg

You're also very good, of course, at period dance.
BD: Yep, I can do anything from Edwardian up to '70s or '80s dance. I don't do street dance yet, though I'm taking classes in it — as a choreographer, you have to keep reinventing yourself, but there are people who do that better than me!